Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women perpetrators of violence: a trial of a prison-based intervention (Beyond Violence)

Currently recruiting: 
The challenge: 

Women make up a small, but rapidly growing segment of the overall prisoner population. Aboriginal women in particular account for 35% of Australia’s female prison population, with over half incarcerated for violent offences in 2014. Violent women offenders pose a significant challenge to custodial authorities, serving shorter sentences than violent men but possessing more complex physical and mental health needs. Violence prevention programs designed specifically for women are scarce. A successful violence prevention program would create substantial health and social benefits for the women, their families and the wider community and assist in reducing incarceration of this population.

The project: 

This study employs an Australian first multi-component intervention that not only aims to reduce recidivism, but also aims to enhance mental well-being and reduce substance use among women with histories of violence. There is a need for effective and evidence-based interventions among women with histories of violence as they are often excluded from community-based treatment programs. The study will trial an intervention with incarcerated women called Beyond Violence. The program has shown promise in international studies; our intervention will be modified for female prisoners in an Australian context. This will include ensuring it is culturally appropriate for Aboriginal women.

The method: 

The study is designed to measure the effectiveness of a 10 week multi-component violence prevention intervention among female offenders with current and/or historical violent offences. A total of 414 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women will be recruited from four correctional centres in Western Australia and New South Wales. Half of the sample will act as a control group who may continue to participate in other programs offered within the prison. Post-release re-offending within 12 months will be the primary measure of the success of the intervention.

The results: 

Recruitment has not yet commenced.

The impact: 

Incarceration is increasingly seen as an important public health opportunity to engage with hard-to-access groups, implement interventions and to connect those who traditionally do not access health services in the community with health providers. Costing around $85,000 per year to keep an adult in a medium-security prison, should the intervention prove to be successful in reducing re-incarceration, it would be highly cost-effective. Positive findings would have immediate translation implications for custodial authorities, prison health providers and community-based organisations that work with ex-offenders. For Aboriginal communities, the imprisonment of mothers impacts disproportionately on families and communities as they are the main carers of children in their communities.

Project contact: 
Professor and Program Head
Project supporters: